new york magazine recently published this article about how people with kids loved their children but hated parenting. how parenting was so very hard some days, with little joy. and the prevailing theme seemed to be how these parents thought that having kids would make them happy.
okay, now, the first part of that is NOBODY can 'make' you happy. you can be happy with other people, but being happy comes first and foremost from within. the minute you deviate from that you are screwed.
all right, so back to the article. i found it to be very honest. here are these parents, and they cannot believe the drudgery of parenting. they cannot believe how little they are sleeping, how little fun they are having. etc. etc. etc.
about how maybe they expected something...different.
i am so very happy to say i am not one of these people. not because i am perfect, but because i am not. and i never expected my kids or my parenting to be either.
so this post will be a celebration of sorts. a celebration of ME as a parent and the few things i did right, lucked out on, or forrest gumped my way through to make parenting something i enjoy doing. (you know, for the most part. and i definitely let you know when it's not!)
(these are specific to my situation and not meant to cover EVERY set of circumstances for birth or relationship. i fully realize not every mother gives birth, that not every birth is vaginal, and that not every set of partners are opposite sex.)
okay, so let's start with the birth. given my own lifelong interest and 'professional' experience in the field of birthing i feel qualified to say that that's where the illusions begin. women like to imagine the birth going smoothly and serenely without complications. yes, there will be pain, but that's okay. because A) you're either going to choose drugs to make it go away or B) you are not. either way you are smug in the knowledge that it will be 'handled.' and yes, you know there will be the moment you yell at your partner for getting you into this mess but it will be a funny story later. etc. etc. etc.
birth is pain. it is soul tearing incredible god bargaining pain. there is NOTHING in this world that prepares you for this pain. by all means, read the books and take the classes, because it's worse when you don't have a fucking clue. but even with a clue? even with drugs (i don't know first hand, i was smug #B, but i've attended enough drug births to have knowledge. there is still some amount of pain somewhere. really. believe me.)
and when you are staring at you partner who did this to you? their face is a dumb stupid face just sitting there while you are being cleaved in two by the universe. why in the hell are they smiling! there is not one reason for them to be smiling. and looking at you all lovey dovey, telling you you are beautiful. yeah. come a little closer. i'll show you beautiful on the next contraction. give me your hand mother fucker.
eventually this passes and they are your love again. and with this, you shouldn't tell them what you were really thinking. and eventually there will be the baby (oh i've glossed over a lot, and i haven't even mentioned the 'ring of fire' because, well let's just cut to the chase. eventually there will be a baby.) but before that there will be sweat and pain and blood and piss and unnamed fluids and shit and vomit and it will be like a long weekend at a frat house before you're done. without the benefit of drinking. and the smell. they never mention the smell in the books.
but then you have a baby. and that makes it all worth it. every.single.time. and there may be those of you who wonder why anyone would go through that ONCE let alone MORE THAN ONCE knowing what they know? because, believe it or not, you forget. or, you just don't make it as out to be as bad as it was. because it ceases to matter when you want a baby.
so the first thing i did right was be part of a whole lotta births before doing it myself. and not those sweet light filled hippie births either. the real reservoir dogs kind. which is good because as it turns out quentin tarantino could have written the script for my first birth.
i was under NO illusions. lucky me.
the thing i lucked into was nannying and babysitting. always good work for a young woman trying to figure out what to do with her life and job situation. babies, toddlers, kids, you name the age i did it. not only did i get a lot of experience with children, i saw what they did to their parents, to the house, to the car, to the pets. i saw the stickers that don't come off pasted all over everything, the marked up bedroom walls, the trashed cars, the traumatized pets, and the inevitable empty glass of wine left by the television, on the kitchen counter, by the bed. i saw the relief on the faces of the parents when i showed up and they practically ran out the door and knew my OWN relief when they showed up and i was the one running.
plus, there is NOTHING like taking care of other people's children to make you appreciate your own so very much more. even if you haven't had them yet. and just because that's harsh doesn't mean it isn't true.
i was under NO illusions. lucky me.
the thing i forrest gumped my way into was the father of my children. okay, that sounds weird, but true. because i consciously chose to have a family with him doesn't mean that it was the only possibility of me having had a family. i lucked out. see i've been wanting to have kids since i was 12. not trying to, mind you. just wanting to. but considering the father of my children was not the only person i have had ever had sex with, and sex creates babies (for the most part) i consider it quite lucky INDEED that it ended up being him. for that matter, i'm sure there's a group of individuals out there who consider it quite lucky INDEED that it ended up being him as well.
okay, so this article suggested that 40% of the fights couples have are about their kids. we've had ONE fight about our kids. and that was before the first one was even born. and it had to do with the penis. so of course he thought he was right, but i knew i was, so...
i have always been pro non circumcision. i won't go into the whys because it doesn't matter to you what i think about it and because i don't care what you do with your own penis or those of your kids. BUT if we had a boy i was adamant he NOT be circumcised. considering we never knew the sex of the duke before he was born made this a somewhat abstract argument. the father of my children did not want his boy to be uncirc'd for all the reasons a man of his generation wouldn't. i felt like i had the knowledge and facts to back my position up and he felt like he had the experience with the penis to back his up, so it was an impasse. a BIG one.
then he talked to his friend/longtime housemate about it. a man without kids mind you, but with, um, let's say with a much broader experience of the penis than either of us and he said something to the effect of, well...we don't need to get into it here. BUT he was VERY pro non circ and the father of my children was convinced and that was that. (and if you're reading this and remember that and know who you are thank you thank you thank you. you solved a BIG problem. and um, i'm sure my boys will have cause to thank you when they are older, too. ;) )
other things i lucked into;
1. support. years and years ago i stumbled on a group of mothers on-line. it sounded creepier to say that out loud then. now it's pretty common. and this has evolved into a very tight knit, loving, supportive, somewhat exclusive group. oh my god when you are a young mother and the days are long and the years are short and vodka at 8 am is starting to look like a good idea there is NOTHING like have someone to instantly bitch to, cry to, rant to, rave to, brag to, etc. and have the possibility of *at least one* out of the group who has been there say, "i have been there. you're gonna be all right." especially at 3am. especially when you are at your worst. especially when parenting has pulled you into the abyss and you forget tomorrow will come and that this too, shall pass. especially when you forget that. AND to remind you that parenting is sometimes about so much more than children. that it's everything. and not everything. this is a good lesson.
i tried finding it in real life, but the women in san francisco were so bent on showing each other up in how gender neutral liberal additive free organic cotton they could be they forgot to be kind to each other. and the women in santa monica didn't raise their own kids. so they were never around. the nannies were around. the nannies did not speak english. and they certainly didn't want to speak to me. the women where i live now were, well i don't know where they all were? i don't live in a neighborhood, and the preschool the boys went to didn't engender or encourage socialization between the parents. drop off, pick up, stay in your car at all times, no helping in the classroom, no parent's nights. i loved this preschool but i couldn't pick out a kid or a mom from a line up to save my life.
2. homeschooling. while this is a HUGE commitment, and it takes a lot to find other families we mesh with, etc. just by homeschooling i've eliminated two of the hugest issues facing parents of school age kids. getting kids up and out of the house for school on time and intact, and homework. my kids don't have to get up and out and we don't have homework. no fight before school, no fight after. i feel like the luckiest sillymortalmama around. and i didn't even consider these two things when deciding to home school. i think i was just thinking, "thank god. no PTA."
3. my family and friends. well, they've always been supportive. no nagging mother in law about what i'm doing wrong, sisters who respect my parenting decisions even when it's different from theirs, friends who never said a word about my choices. even when they knew, for example, that the boys were still nursing at 3. never a word. at least they didn't say it to me. so thank you for that.
4. starting a blog as early as i did. because if you're not laughing you're crying. and because admitting your shortcomings to the whole wide web has a very cathartic effect. i am not a perfect person or a perfect parent. i remind myself of this by telling these stories to you. so thank you for listening, because it has always meant more than you know.
parenting is rewarding, yes yes it is. tremendously. and there are enough people and media to tell you this. books, television shows, movies. boy they make it look so great sometimes. and it is. but parenting is also hard. and anyone who tells you anything else *without* mentioning this part is selling something. read the books and get the advice. listen to those who have been there, take all of it with a grain of salt. just remember that this is YOUR journey. yours and your child's. and your child is all that matters. and how you parent your child is up to you. and no one else. so be brave, don't be afraid to try and to fail and to try again. and on the days that it's hard don't be afraid to cry and don't be afraid to embrace the imperfection, don't forget that you are not perfect. and you are not supposed to be.
don't forget that tomorrow always comes. and that this too, shall pass.
and above all, don't forget that you were meant to be your child's parent. and that they are so very lucky to have you. and you are so very lucky to have them.